My Chocolatier Story, in honor of World Chocolate Day…
Six years ago, while living on the coast of Oregon, I decided to make the move from catering chef to chocolatier. Everyone had just finished devouring the main course at a small dinner party being hosted at the home of a wealthy client. They were easy going and fun to cook for, and I was excited to serve the beautiful bon bons I made earlier that day—chocolate ganache inside a dark chocolate shell. It was one of my first times getting them all to release from their molds with the colored cocoa butter intact. At first, nobody knew what they were. Someone asked, “are these to eat?” I said, “yes, of course—they are chocolates.” One lady said, “these are too pretty to eat”, but without skipping a beat I replied, “oh, but they taste as good as they look.” It felt so amazing to hear all the compliments!
Looking back, I’m remembering how thick the chocolate shells were, but for one of my first attempts, they were still a nice surprise from the ordinary chocolate truffle (although, done right, truffles are anything but ordinary).
I was following Norman Love and others who transform chocolate into small works of art using colored cocoa butters, but many people hadn’t come across chocolates like these yet. Now they are saturating Instagram and in fine chocolate shops the World over. In fact, you can learn how to make them from chocolatiers who are flying around the globe to teach people their tricks and techniques. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t even afford to do the Ecole Chocolat program online which I know is a very distinguished and well developed educational program. I was doing a lot of catering just to help us make ends meet and ready to make a change. To follow my passion. I decided I was going to become a chocolatier. I am self taught.
There was a time when I was afraid to let people know I was self taught. I’m proud that I have come so far with still much ahead of me. I share ideas readily with others because I’ve always believed that there is no limit to creativity and sharing just helps increase it. If I adapt a technique I see from another chocolatier, I credit them for the idea. It’s important to me—for example, this long thread is where I learned a lot years ago.
I was inspired by talented creative people like Francisco Migoya (he used to be chocolatier/owner of Hudson Chocolates) and many others who elevated chocolate to an art form.
I bought the equipment needed and just started practicing thanks to an investment from my favorite catering clients. There are so many people I’ve been inspired by including John Nanci, the chocolate making pioneer and founder of Chocolate Alchemy who I had the pleasure of meeting when I lived in Eugene, Oregon. There also I met a pastry chef turned chocolate maker Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate and bought slabs of her single origin chocolates to introduce people to the nuances of pure chocolate from different places. I have to also include Cacao Portland as the shop where I spent a bit (a lot, but it was worth it) just sampling every craft chocolate bar I could afford. There is so much fantastic craft chocolate making going on, it’s amazing. There are many other shops like that one including one where I held a chocolate workshop Cocoa + Co in Chicago.
In addition to selling the chocolates I make I’ve found some success teaching chocolate workshops. Nearly a thousand students have attended my workshops creating their own dazzling box of chocolates and the look of delight on their faces never gets old to me.
Every day I love working with chocolate. I can’t say I felt that way about catering, although I did enjoy it most of the time. Chocolate work has brought out the artist in me that I never realized existed. Maybe it can do that for you too.
Happy World Chocolate Day.